Theatrical film poster
|Directed by||Robert Hiltzik|
|Produced by||Jerry Silva
|Written by||Robert Hiltzik|
|Music by||Edward Bilous|
David M. Walsh
|Edited by||Ron Kalish
American Eagle Films
|Distributed by||United Film Distribution Company|
Sleepaway Camp (also marketed on VHS as Nightmare Vacation) is a 1983 exploitation slasher film written and directed by Robert Hiltzik who also served as executive producer. The film tells about a young girl and her cousin sent to a summer camp, where a group of killings at the camp begin shortly after their arrival. The film came at a time when slasher films were in their heyday, and is largely known for its twist ending which is considered by some to be one of the most shocking endings among horror films. Sleepaway Camp is also notable as the last movie of Tony-nominee Mike Kellin, and as the film debut of Christopher Collet.
In 1975, John Baker and his lover, Lenny, take John's children Angela and Peter on a boating trip. After the boat capsizes, John and the children attempt to swim ashore where Lenny is waiting for them, but they swim into the path of a reckless motorboat driver and are struck. John and Peter are killed.
Eight years later, Angela is now living with her eccentric aunt, Dr. Martha Thomas, and her cousin Ricky Thomas. Angela and Ricky are sent to Camp Arawak. Martha gives them their physicals and tells them not to let anyone know where they got them as she believes they wouldn't approve at all. Due to her introverted nature, Angela is bullied, her main tormentors being fellow camper Judy and camp counselor Meg. The head cook, Artie attempts to molest Angela until Ricky interrupts, and the two children flee. While Artie is boiling water for corn, an unseen figure pulls the chair out from under him and he's severely scalded by the boiling water. Ben eventually enters the kitchen, to the sound of Artie's terror-filled screaming. He is shocked by the chaos created. Artie's incident is deemed accidental by camp owner Mel Costic, who pays Ben and other kitchen employees to keep the accident quiet.
Campers Kenny and Mike begin to mock Angela, prompting Ricky and his friend Paul to get into a fight with them. After the brawl is broken up by Gene, Ricky and the rest of the boys involved in the fight leave, while Paul stays behind and befriends Angela. Later, Kenny is drowned by an unseen figure, his body found the next day and his death also ruled accidental by Mel. Paul asks Angela to attend the movie with him and kisses her afterwards outside her bunkhouse. Campers Billy and Jimmy also pick on Angela, pelting her with water balloons. Billy is then killed when a mysterious assailant locks him in a bathroom stall and drops a beehive inside it, leaving him to be stung to death. Mel expresses to Ronnie that he thinks there is a killer in the camp.
The relationship between Angela and Paul grows strained when Paul kisses her on the beach, causing Angela to have a flashback to her youth when she and her brother witnessed their father in bed with Lenny. Paul is then seduced by Judy, who lures him into the woods, where the two are found kissing by Angela and Ricky. Guilty, Paul attempts to explain himself to Angela while on the beach. As Paul talks to Angela, he is shooed away by Judy and Meg, who throw Angela into the water. After being taken out of the lake by lifeguard Hal and having sand flung at her by several small children, a clearly disturbed Angela is comforted by Ricky, who swears revenge on her aggressors. After the affair at the beach, Meg prepares for a date with Mel. During her shower, she is killed by the unseen killer, who slices down her back through the shower stall.
A camp social is held. At the event, Paul apologizes to Angela again and she tells him to meet her at the waterfront after the social. Mel goes looking for Meg and, finding her body in the cabin, vows that he won't let her killer escape. The six children who threw sand at Angela are taken out to go camping with counselor Eddie. When two of them ask to go back, Eddie takes them back to his car and drives back to the camp. The other four children are found hacked to bits with Eddie's axe when he returns. Soon after, Judy is killed by being raped with a lit curling iron. The camp is thrown into a panic when Ronnie hears of the children's deaths. Mel grabs Ricky and beats him mercilessly, before stumbling into the camp archery range, where he is shot in the throat with an arrow by the killer.
Police arrive and begin searching the camp for missing campers (Angela, Judy, Ricky, and Paul). Paul is at the beach waiting for Angela, who arrives and suggests they go for a swim. The policeman and Gene discover Ricky, unconscious, beaten but alive. Ronnie and Susie find a naked Angela humming to herself and clutching both a hunting knife and Paul's severed head in her hands. They are shocked to discover that "Angela" is actually Peter, her thought-to-be-dead brother. It is revealed that the real Angela died in the accident and Peter survived. After Martha gained custody of him, she decided to raise Peter as the girl she always wanted, already having a son and coming to the conclusion that another boy "simply would not do." It's also implied that Peter was mentally affected by seeing his father sharing a homosexual embrace with another man. The film suddenly ends with the nude and blood-covered "Angela" (male genitalia in full view), standing before the shocked Susie and Ronnie and letting out an animalistic hissing sound, before freezing to green and the credits roll.
- Felissa Rose as Angela Baker
- Jonathan Tiersten as Ricky Thomas (as Jonathan Tierston)
- Karen Fields as Judy
- Christopher Collet as Paul
- Mike Kellin as Mel Costic
- Amy Baio as Brooke Warner
- Katherine Kamhi as Meg
- Paul DeAngelo as Ronnie
- Susan Glaze as Susie
- Tom Van Dell as Mike
- Loris Sallahain as Billy
- John E. Dunn as Kenny
- Ethan Larosa as Jimmy
- Willy Kuskin as Mozart
- Desiree Gould as Aunt Martha
- Owen Hughes as Artie
- Robert Earl Jones as Ben
- Frank Trent Sorrentino as Gene
- Rick Edrich as Jeff
- Fred Greene as Eddie
- Allen Breton as Frank the Cop
- Michael C. Mahon as Hal
- Dan Tursi as John
- James Paradise as Lenny
The film was released theatrically on a limited basis by United Film Distribution Company on November 18, 1983. On its opening weekend it grossed a total of $430,000. When it opened, it was the top grossing film in New York, beating out its horror competition by taking in almost double the gross of Amityville 3-D. The film attained a modest success during its initial run.
In the late 1980s, Michael A. Simpson directed two sequels, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989). In them, Angela (now played by Bruce Springsteen's younger sister, Pamela Springsteen) resurfaces at a nearby summer camp, but this time masquerading as a counselor after a sex change that made her entirely female. Much like at the previous camp, she gleefully tortures and kills anyone who misbehaves or annoys her. These films had more of a comic tone than the original.
Another rogue sequel, Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor, directed by Jim Markovic, was partially filmed in the early 1990s but never completed. In 2002 the unfinished footage was released and made available as an exclusive fourth disc in Anchor Bay/Starz Entertainment's Sleepaway Camp DVD boxed set. In 2012 the film was completed and released on DVD and Amazon Video on Demand.
A new film, Return to Sleepaway Camp, was completed in 2003 and initially struggled to complete visual effects. It was directed by Robert Hiltzik, the director of the original 1983 film. He decided that this chapter will ignore the story lines of the previous sequels, stating that he wanted to pick up from where the original film ended. According to Fangoria.com the digital effects were redone from 2006 to 2008. The film found distribution, and was released November 4, 2008, by Magnolia/Magnet Pictures. Review copies of the film had been sent out, and the movie's screener had already been leaked prior to the release, ruining the surprise ending.
The purportedly final film in Hiltzik's Sleepaway Camp trilogy, titled Sleepaway Camp Reunion, was also announced to be in the works. Distribution had been arranged via Magnolia Pictures. Creator Robert Hiltzik stated that he would make the film if his budget was met. However, Hiltzik and "Return To Sleepaway Camp" producer Jeff Hayes have since started working on a reboot/remake that would retain the key characters and elements of the original film with additional storyline elements and a dose of modernizing. As of Summer 2014, Hiltzik was reportedly tweaking the script. Although he had no rights to the film series, Michael Simpson, the director of Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, wrote a script for his series of Sleepaway Camp movies as well, titled Sleepaway Camp: Berserk.
Resurrection and legacy
In the late 1990s, Jeff Hayes brought the fan base of Sleepaway Camp into the open, with the first official Sleepaway Camp web site. In 2000, Hayes arranged an audio commentary for Sleepaway Camp with director Robert Hiltzik and star Felissa Rose on the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD.In 2014, Hayes arranged a "Sleepaway Camp" retrospective featurette for the film's Blu-ray Disc release through Scream Factory for which he shot interviews with cast and crew in NYC. Hayes also organized a new, more technical, commentary with director Robert Hiltzik for the Blu-ray release where he prods Hiltzik to explain more about the creation, creative elements, and ideas behind the film. The new commentary was recorded in March 2014 and the Blu-ray disc was released in June 2014 to a great critical response and highly positive fan reception.
The film has been referenced several times in pop culture, such as:
- Art punk band The Blood Brothers borrowed the title of their song "Meet Me at the Waterfront After the Social" verbatim from a line spoken by Angela.
- Metal band Frightmare wrote a song about the film, simply titled "Angela".
- Senses Fail named a song after Angela Baker, titled "Angela Baker and My Obsession with Fire".
- Robot Chicken aired a sketch about the movie, which included a horrified Robert Hiltzik exclaiming "Oh my god! Someone remembered this movie and wrote a comedy sketch about it!"
- The band (and movie features) CKY (Camp Kill Yourself) is named in reference to the movie. They also released an EP entitled Disengage the Simulator, the cover art for which features Angela. Lead singer Deron Miller is also married to actress Felissa Rose, who played Angela. They met on the set of Return to Sleepaway Camp.
- The film's sequels feature songs performed by metal band Obsession (featuring Mike Vescera) including the title track for Teenage Wasteland, "Methods of Madness".
- Post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes' album Oxeneers begins with two song titles which refer to the Sleepaway Camp series. The first song on the album is called "The Shit Sisters" after two characters in the second film, and the second song on the album is called "Angela's Secret".
- The fictional film in "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Nature Trail to Hell" (from "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D) is partly based on Sleepaway Camp, evidenced by the fact that the film was in theaters when the song was recorded, and that the song contains references to the film's plot and advertising campaign.
- The film Wet Hot American Summer was based in part on Sleepaway Camp.
- "Sleepaway Camp". The New York Times.
- "25 Best Horror Movie Twist Endings - Best Twist Endings in Horror Movies". Horror.about.com. 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- "Sleepaway Camp - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2014-05-31.
- Beldin, Fred. "Sleepaway Camp - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Jen Yamato (October 31, 2013). "Cult ’80s Slasher ‘Sleepaway Camp’ Eyed For Franchise Reboot". Retrieved July 30, 2014.
- Scheer, Paul (October 30, 2012). "Sleepaway Camp, episode #48 of How Did This Get Made?". Earwolf. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
- Official Sleepaway Camp Site
- Sleepaway Camp at the Internet Movie Database
- Sleepaway Camp at AllMovie